Today is this adorable creature’s 5th birthday. 5 years old.
I brought Jersey to his first puppy exam at 13 weeks old. The vet asked if I knew that he had a terrible heart murmur (I did) and coldly notified me that Jersey likely wouldn’t live to see his 1st birthday. He suggested I return this puppy to it’s breeder.
I first met Jersey when he was 7 weeks old. I’d been communicating with his breeder for weeks, and I’d chosen him as mine. Seeing and holding him for the first time was pure bliss. I remember him being very calm and cuddly– in a way that Oslo (who was 2 at the time) never was. Where Oslo was a bundle of silly energy, Jersey was relaxed and loving. He would sit on your lap, happy to be touched and loved.
Shortly after that first visit, I got a email from his breeder. Jersey had had his final exam by her vet before being released to his new family.. and it was discovered that he had a bad heart murmur. He’d had it at birth, but there was a good possibility of it going away in the first few weeks of life. It didn’t. It was still there, and there was a possibility that his heart could give out any day at all. Because she could no longer offer us a ‘Health Guarantee’ (as any/all decent breeders should) she had to refund my deposit. She was going to hang onto Jersey to see if his health condition worsened.
I was devastated. I had announced Jersey’s impending arrival to all of my family and friends! I’d prepared my home for a new arrival! His breeder offered me a litter mate of Jersey’s– a beautiful boy, who had no health issues, and would have been a lovely addition… I declined. He wasn’t Jersey. I visited an animal shelter. I held adorable chihuahua puppies. But none of them were Jersey.
A month passed.
I got an email from Jersey’s breeder. Jersey was 12 weeks old now and doing well. His heart condition hadn’t improved, but it hadn’t worsened either. He was stable. He had normal puppy energy. He ran. He played. He wrestled. He didn’t get winded. Would I like to adopt Jersey as a ‘Special Needs’ dog? He would have his heart defect his entire life. Eventually his heart will tire from all the extra work it’s doing, and Jersey will require medication. And eventually, after that, the medication won’t work anymore and his heart will give out. There is no guarantee how long this process will takes– it could be 2 weeks, it could be 14 years. But if I wanted him, if I was willing to take him on knowing the full extent of his heart problems & the risks associated with them, I could have him. I could just have him. She wanted him to go to a home that would love him, and care for him despite his heart problems.
We drove out that very day and picked up our boy. It was a no brainer.
And today Jersey turns 5.
He still has a heart murmur, and there are still no guarantees with his health. So far, his heart hasn’t slowed him down all that much. I don’t let him run around like a crazy dog, and I don’t take him on 5 hour hikes (… because I don’t go on 5 hour hikes!) And there are definitely extra precautions that need to be taken when it comes to things like anesthesia & surgeries.. But over all, thus far, Jersey’s heart has not been a huge issue.
So, to that first vet who was all doom & gloom and “your puppy will be lucky to see it’s 1st birthday!” I say- Yes, he was lucky. But we are luckier. We didn’t let you, or Jersey’s heart, scare us away… And in return for our bravery, we got 5 years with most incredible, gentle, loving dog that has ever existed.
I don’t know what Jersey’s future holds. There will come a time for him, just as there will come a time for Oslo, and Xyla, and all of us really. And when that time comes, I will first do whatever I can to keep him comfortable and happy. After that, I will do what is the most compassionate and selfless. And it will be excruciating. But I’ve had 5 years with Jersey so far, and there’s no reason to believe that we won’t have 5 more. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Every day is a gift with this amazing boy. Every year is a lottery win. I plan on appreciating the days & years as they come, and celebrating all of the milestones!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JERSEY BLUE! YOU ARE THE BEST BOY!